I got an email from a dear friend tonight. It just about broke me. She’s in what feels like a no-win situation, with no way out. And by that I mean, whatever direction she chooses to go, she will be hurt, and others that she loves and deeply cares about will be hurt. Today she was blindsided with a whole new element to her situation. She is stunned. Numbed, even. She doesn’t know what to do, what the think, where to go from here.
I don’t know how to even begin to respond. I just don’t know. How do I begin to speak truth into her life when I’m not sure what that truth even is?
But I’ve been proofreading my friend Josh’s soon-to-be-published book this weekend. He wrote about the story in John 11 when Lazarus dies. A few years ago, this story was brought into a whole new light for me. And reading Josh’s book, I was reminded of some profound truths about the character of God and the response of Jesus to our pain.
Before he even arrived in Bethany, Jesus knew the end of the story; he knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet moments before he performs this incredible miracle, when confronted with the agonizing grief of Martha and Mary, verse 35 says, “Jesus wept.” I have often wondered why. Why would Jesus weep? He knew that in just a short time, all of the mourning would turn to rejoicing and that God would be glorified more greatly through it all. Yet he wept.
I could give my friend some lame platitudes about how God will indeed make even this right—how perhaps now, and especially in the end (heaven), God will be glorified through this situation. But I’m not even sure I believe that most days. I want to, but I don’t. And it would be pithy and christian-y to say so and I really hate those kind of clichéd answers. I never want to be that kind of friend.
So here’s what I want to tell my friend tonight.
I want to suggest to you is that Jesus is here with you in the midst of the deepest pain and agony you have experienced in your life, and he is weeping with you. Not shedding a tear or two, but weeping…body shaking, curled in a ball on the ground, crying so hard you can’t breathe, snot pouring, out of control weeping. I believe Jesus wept because this was never the way it was supposed to be. Sin wasn’t supposed to be in this world, life wasn’t supposed to be so hard, we weren’t supposed to be so completely screwed up in all the ways that we are. I think he weeps because he feels our pain as deeply as we do and he hurts that we are hurting and he weeps for a world that is broken and for our brokenness.
Isaiah (7:14) and Matthew (1:23) say that Jesus was given the name Immanuel, which means “God with us.” He came to be with us, in the whole of our lives. Through all of the ups and the downs and the very deepest, darkest pits of our lives, Jesus came to be with us. He took on flesh and he experienced humanity in its fullness. He lived and loved and hoped and laughed. He was exhausted (emotionally and physically), he was broken, he anguished, and he wept.
As you kneel in the dirt next to a tomb where your love and your hopes and dreams have been laid and you are overcome with pain and sorrow and grief, I believe Jesus is there with you. And what I pray for you is that you would know His presence now more tangibly than you have ever known it. I’m not praying for answers, I’m not praying for this to be taken away, I’m not praying right now for God to use this for good in your life. I am simply praying that you would know that Jesus is there with you, weeping with you, sharing your pain.
May you know the fullness of Immanuel.
May you experience God with us.
May we all.